I love time-lapse photography. I’ve experimented with it a bit, with both iOS devices and various cameras. However, time-lapse really takes commitment. I’ve done this math on this blog before, but I’ll do it again. Let’s say that you’re shooting one shot every 30 seconds. If your video is a standard 30 frames per second (fps), then it would take 15 minutes for one second’s worth of video. One hour would give you four seconds. 24 hours would be 1.6 minutes worth. That’s not a lot.
However, for good time-lapse you need some persistence of vision. 30 fps is probably too fast. You could either reduce the frame rate, or you could decrease the time interval to something like once every 5 seconds. Either way it’s still a commitment in time.
Plus there are other factors to consider. If you’re shooting outdoors or on location you have to protect your gear from the weather and you need to keep it secure. There’s also the issue of power. Will your camera run that long on batteries, or does it need external power? It can be daunting.
I have learned a couple of things, though. A static shot can be very boring. Sure, it’s neat to watch a full day in several minutes, but even those several minutes can get tedious if not much is happening. Secondly, you have to keep your shot very stable. Any variation can cause an unpleasant jerk.
For keeping interest, 1.6 seconds is probably too long for a scene. Some of the best time-lapse videos change scenes regularly. If nothing is happening in the scene, it can be edited out, or it may go by so fast as to not be an issue.
A new technique has become popular with time-lapse photographers, and it runs a bit counter to my second point above. The idea is to introduce a bit of controlled motion to the time-lapse shot. This has an effect similar to the “Ken Burns” effect used in his Civil War series, where a static image moved slightly to prevent eye fatigue. My brother Houston taught me the term for this – hyper lapse.
In a hyper lapse video, the camera moves along a defined path very, very slowly. Most often the speed is controlled by some mechanism. However, here’s one example where someone did a hand-held version, then cleaned up the shakes and weird angles in post production…
Here’s an example of a video shot with a Dynamic Perception dolly…
Note that the scenes change frequently, and the slight smooth movement of the camera adds interest to the shot. The movement can be just about any direction – horizontal, vertical, or at an angle.
Perhaps one of the most dramatic hyper-lapse videos I’ve seen was a lip-synced music video. The singer had to precisely position his mouth in time with the music. The results are nothing short of astounding.
I don’t think I’m going to come anywhere close to these types of videos, but they are cool to watch. My new D7000 has time-lapse capabilities, so maybe I’ll give it a shot sometime. Until then, though, I’ll just enjoy these.